In Barandobo, North Macedonia, abandoned shops and almost empty streets show few signs of life, where many young people are fleeing abroad in search of a better life.
Like many of this poor region in southeastern Europe, these small Balkans are riding demographic time bombs supported by aging populations, declining birthrates, and mass migration.
North Macedonia has shed 10% of its population in the last 20 years. Currently, about 600,000 Macedonian citizens live abroad, according to World Bank and government data.
Abnormal economic growth and lack of investment have destroyed a country with a population of only 1.8 million in 30 years of independence.
“If you have a little over 2.4 million citizens and more than a quarter left, you need to be seriously worried about what’s going on,” said Apostle Simowski, director of the National Statistics Bureau. say.
Villages and small towns like Valandovo, 146 km from the capital, have few jobs and are ambitious and can be found elsewhere.
“Youth spirit has been systematically destroyed,” the newly elected 33-year-old mayor, Perokostadinov, tells AFP. “The enthusiasm of fighting and staying at home has been lost.”
In Balandbo alone, almost 90% of people’s income is related to agriculture, which is a common denominator throughout North Macedonia.
“Five of the 20 students in our class have already moved abroad with their families,” said Bojan Nikolov, 24, a member of Barandbo’s Youth City Council.
The anecdote clearly shows where the future of the country is heading.
The first results of the latest North Macedonia census conducted in September estimate that the population has declined by more than 200,000 since 2002. Since the independence and dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, many have integrated into the European Union a lump of life and a brighter future.
However, North Macedonia’s path to EU accession has been repeatedly blocked, initially by Greece and later by Bulgaria, raising new questions about the country’s upcoming participation and plunging many.
The average monthly salary for guests is 470 euros ($ 530).
“It’s better to be a € 2,000 slave abroad than to be a € 300 slave at home,” says a popular refrain in North Macedonia.
This is a photo duplicated throughout the Balkan Peninsula.
According to government statistics, in Albania, about 1.7 million people, or about 37% of the population, have left Albania in the last 30 years. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have left Serbia to settle abroad after the economy was hit by the war in the 1990s, leaving up to 10,000 doctors in the last two decades.
“All Western Balkan countries are affected by immigrants to varying degrees,” said Iril Gedesi, a professor of economics based in Tirana, the capital of Albania.
“The main reason is economic, but apart from that, social reasons are becoming more and more important.”
But in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, EU member states want to reverse their fate, but Croatia has issued harsh warnings.
Preliminary census findings show that since joining the block in 2013, the population of just over 4 million has declined by nearly 10% in 10 years.
The United Nations predicts that Croatia’s population will be only 2.5 million by the end of this century. Demographers warn that the country’s small population may lack the resilience to survive further losses.
In December, Zagreb sought to reverse some of the brain drain by promising to return Croats stationed in the European Union up to € 26,000 ($ 29,000) and start operations.
However, in some areas it may already be too late.
http://www.gulf-times.com/story/707336/The-long-decline-mass-migration-batters-Balkans Long decline: mass migrants hit the Balkans